Alpine F1 team looking to trump Mercedes in Esteban Ocon tussle for 2022
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Alpine Formula One team say they’re keen to put an end to Mercedes rumours and extend the contract of Esteban Ocon to keep their lineup consistent heading into 2022.
The former Mercedes junior driver has outscored his team-mate, the double world champion Fernando Alonso, this season, and out-qualified him 3-1 impressing at the Renault-owned team.
On his return from a year out on Mercedes reserve driver duties, he took his debut podium, a second place, with what was then the Renault team in Bahrain last season.
The Frenchman parted ways with Mercedes to take the seat at Renault last season, but has since been linked to a potential move to the seven-time champions.
But Alpine’s CEO Laurent Rossi said on Thursday that they were already in talks with Ocon’s management team ahead of the new season, and were keen to keep him at the Enstone-based team.
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“Esteban is doing everything to make me consider keeping him in the team. I would be remiss if I didn’t think about it,” Rossi told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix.
“At the moment, we are already engaged in some conversations with his agent, his management team, Mercedes at large.”
Ocon has been linked to the hypothetical free seat next season at Mercedes, with the boss Toto Wolff admitting he was a viable candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas, who are both out of contract at the end of the year.
Wolff, who manages the 24-year-old, said: “Ocon is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault or Alpine F1 this year, Russell is with Williams this year. So there are some variations for 2022.
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“But,” he added, “until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis.
“We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022. It is surely too early now to talk about scenarios for 2022.”
However Hamilton has recently admitted he would like to start contract negotiations soon, and has set the deadline of the August F1 summer break, with Wolff adding they’re hoping to sign the seven-time champion up for a multi-year deal.
Pierre Gasly, who achieved his debut Formula One win in Monza last season with the Red Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri, has also been linked to Alpine but Rossi quashed that suggestion.
“We’re not looking at any drivers (from outside the team) for next year,” said the CEO.
“At the moment, I’m considering obviously Esteban (and) Fernando is here next year with us. So if we want to carry on the momentum we have, we’ll do that.”
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